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Money, And Where It Originates, Makes 10th Congressional District Race Worth Watching

By Kevin Robinson in News on Aug 13, 2014 9:15PM

Tenth Congressional District Rep. Brad Schneider (left) and challenger Bob Dold.

There is a tight congressional race worth watching just North of Chicago. That's the race to unseat Democrat Brad Schneider and replace him with Republican Bob Dold. Schneider won Illinois' 10th Congressional District seat from Dold in 2012, and Dold's taking him on in a rematch.

Normally, this isn't the sort of race that we here at Chicagoist would pay close attention. The candidates, while distinct politically, are battling to see who can run closest to the center. Dold is a moderate, non-Tea Party Republican. Schneider is a centrist Democrat who likes "bipartisanship." But as close races tend to do, this one has littered our inboxes with press releases.

Enter Katie Prill.

Prill is the Midwest and Southeast Regional Press Secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). The NRCC is a political committee devoted to retaining incumbent Republicans and expanding the GOP majority in the House of Representatives. It's also an organ of the National Party. Prill forwarded an email from Dold's campaign to several members of the Chicagoist staff, accusing Schneider of profiting from an investment in a Koch Brothers-owned business while simultaneously decrying their influence in American politics. I asked Prill if it was true that Dold had accepted contributions from the Koch Brothers in 2010, to which she responded "I believe groups funded by the Koch brothers ran TV ads for Dold in previous elections."

According to Open Secrets, Dold accepted $5,000 from either one of the Koch brothers or one of their Political Action Committees in 2010. When I asked Prill if it was fair to say that Bob Dold has no problems with the involvement of unlimited spending by the Koch Brothers or their related PACs, she declined to comment and referred me instead to an email address at Nahigian strategies.

Unfortunately I couldn't get Prill to comment on what Dold thought about the Koch brothers and their nearly insatiable appetite for spending on American elections ("I won’t do your job for you," was the reply she gave me), but Prill and I did get to discuss a little bit about the Koch Brothers' involvement and financing of the NRCC. It turns out that the Kochs have given a total of $248,000 so far this year to the NRCC, either individually or through one of their PACs. When I asked Prill if it would it be fair to say that the NRCC has no problem whatsoever with the Koch Brothers or their involvement in politics at nearly all levels of government, she said "individuals are allowed to take part in the political process as they see fit."

In the end, none of this would actually be that big of a deal. It's a snoozer of a race between two candidates who, while having real partisan differences, are so close to each other ideologically that the only reason to support one or the other is as a proxy for the president and his party in Congress. The problem with people like Katie Prill and the strategy of the NRCC is that they send emails to the press insinuating themselves into a race, and then try to dodge any accountability when the press asks questions. Telling a reporter or a writer "oh hey look at this press release!" and "here's an email address to a media consultant why don't you ask them" aren't really legit replies when someone asks about a candidate's position. Especially when that position is directly related to the email that you've sent.

Most galling is the Dold campaign, which is where the attempt to paint Schneider as being in bed with the Koch Brothers originates (and how bankrupt does your position have to be if you're accusing someone of being bad because they're tangentially related to the very thing or group that's backing your efforts?) isn't even forthcoming about their candidate's own connections to the Koch brothers and their business and lobbying interests in the first place. Carol Felsenthal, writing in Chicago Magazine, takes apart Dold's role as secretary of the board of directors of an organization called America’s Infrastructure Alliance (AIA) and his connection to Mary Peters, who not only served on AIA's board of directors, but also worked for a Koch company called Koch Performance Roads.

Whether any of this matters to voters in the 10th district remains to be seen. Katie Prill would have you believe that Schneider is set to lose, although 39+42 is 81 so the GOP might be smart not to gloat just yet.